The 2012 tilt will be the 11th (count 'em) presidential campaign that I have been involved with as a reporter, editor or blogger. That bit of lineage noted, I cannot recall anything remotely resembling the spitstorm -- in which powerful Republicans have joined the Obama campaign and news media -- over Mitt Romney's continuing refusal to release income tax returns beyond the January dump of his 2010 return and estimated 2011 return.
Count me among the people who have gone, in a matter of a few weeks, from believing that Mitt was merely being stubborn in not going with the presidential candidate flow, which included his dear old dad, in releasing all of his returns. It is now beyond obvious that his refusal is not about being bullheaded. It is about being scared -- well, scared spitless -- concerning the fallout from what might be revealed in those returns. Did he not have to pay any taxes in a particular year because of financial slights of hand? Or more likely are there bombshells, or maybe one really big bombshell, that might effectively end his quest for the White House?
No one knows for sure and John McCain ain't talking, but it is curious that Mitt made available all his returns when he was being vetted as the Arizona Republican's running mate in 2008 and McCain instead gave the nod to Sarah Palin. An interesting theory that is being much bandied about given the vacouous responses of Mitt and his campaign spokesmouths, but one that is probably a little too neat to be true since McCain was said to be a fan of the Killa From Wasilla's posterior and didn't care that she had the world view of a tree stump.
While Mitt might have erred in putting his Irish setter in a cage on the roof of his station wagon on a now infamous family vacation, he screwed up majorly in failing to anticipate that his returns would be an issue. After all, his opponents made the returns issues when he ran for the Senate in 1994 and Massachusetts governor in 2002, specifically over his involvement in . . . are you ready for this? Bain Capital.
An alternate theory some 18 years on -- 1994 being the year the Teddy Kennedy beat Mitt in a battle of millionaires -- is that he not only has no empathy for a poor working stiff whose IRA is million of bucks less than his, he believes himself to be well above working stiffs in general. Besides which, Obama smoked pot as a teenager.
But change the subject as he and his surrogates might try to do, there is now a focus on those mystery returns not seen since the frenzy of speculation over what was in mobster Al Capone's vault. As we found out, there was nothing in the vault except debris. While Geraldo Rivera has not yet been signed to do a television special on what's in Mitt's returns, there is little likelihood that it's merely dirt and empty booze bottles.
Wife Anne is furious that Obama and his surrogates, and how the news media, as well, are impugning her honey bunny's integrity, and Mitt himself obvious has his underwear -- special or otherwise -- in a knot. This has led a news source that is reliable except when it isn't reliable to quote two anonymice in Mitt's campaign as saying that they are now prepared to go eye for eye after ceding the momentum to the incumbent for weeks. This would entail calling him a liar, referencing that pot-smoking thing, as well as that Colombian marching powder thing that he also has fessed up to, and . . . hang onto your sombreros! that he associated with dirty Chicago politicians.
It will be left to the voters to decide who is dirtier: A Windy City pol who has his palm greased in return for leaning on the city to install streetlights in an alley or a pol whose claim to fame is getting filthy rich on the backs of those working stiffs. If you ask me, the tax return debacle defines Romney better than any opposition caricature could. And that might be fatal.
HEADLINE QUOTE FROM DOUGJ AT BALLOON JUICE